Friday, March 29, 2013

Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery 15 Years

Each and everyday my inbox is filled with both good news and bad news from environmental organizations. More often than not though when it comes to wolves the news is bad. Genetics, poaching, and outright hostility by some segments of the cattle industry and their supporter's still plague wolf populations around the country. Recently wolves in some states have been subjected to hunting once again after being de-listed by the Interior Department resulting in the slaughter of over 1100 wolves. An effort is underway by those who care little about the improvements that wolves bring to the ecology to undo all the efforts made to return a healthy wolf population to the lower 48. It still breaks my heart to think about the destruction of Yellowstone's Cottonwood Pack on a mid October morning in 2009 just outside Yellowstone National Park where thousands of people visit each year to see these magnificent animals roaming free and where the environment is recovering thanks to their presence.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the effort to reintroduce the Mexican Gray Wolf, a subspecies of the Gray Wolf, to Arizona and New Mexico. Unfortunately there is still much to be done if we are to save this "most endangered" wolf from extinction. As a supporter of wolf reintroduction the news that there are now 75 Gray Wolves in the wild on the surface is good news but underlying that fact is that all 75 animals are descended from just seven animals. With a genetic pool this shallow the Mexican Gray Wolf is as endangered today as it was when the program started 15 years ago. With only three breeding pairs in the wild much more needs to be done to ensure the survival of the species. Along with genetics, poaching also continues to be a major problem for the program in-spite of huge rewards offered for the capture of those responsible for the deaths of protected Mexican Grays. I was unable to embed video that I took at the Desert Museum of one of the female Mexican Gray Wolves housed there but have added a link to Howling For Justice that has some excellent information on these animals as well as some stunning video that everyone interested in wolves should see.

Also in my inbox this morning was this plan from Defenders of Wildlife that prods the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release more wolves to address the genetic instability among the Mexican Grays and to improve their overall chance for survival. It sounds like a very good start.

In order to move Mexican gray wolves back from the edge of extinction, Defenders has created a three-point emergency rescue plan:

1 Release more captive wolves into the wild in order to address the genetic problem. The wolves to be released must be the right wolves genetically, and the releases need to be the first step in a more rigorous genetic improvement plan.
2 Complete a scientifically sound recovery plan. USFWS must complete this essential road map to recovery, and then implement it.
3 Establish at least two additional core wolf populations — and do so right away. Additional core populations of Mexican gray wolves will allow them to expand and give them a better chance for long-term survival.
On a further note from Defenders the message is clear.
Time is not on the Mexican Gray Wolf's side, but there is still hope if we act today. Wildlife lovers like you have helped bring back the peregrine falcon, the grizzly bear and a host of other endangered wildlife back from the brink. With the right energy and focus, Mexican gray wolves can join the list of species that have become conservation success stories.

I also received an e-mail from the Arizona Fish and Game Department today about the effort to have Mexican Gray Wolves de-listed ostensibly so that the state can take over the reintroduction effort. I strongly object to any de-listing effort as the State of Arizona Conservation Commission is controlled by hunting interests including a member with ties to Safari International. While the people of Arizona usually speak loudly and clearly for protecting the natural heritage of the state, elected officials record on the other hand has not always in the best interests of conservation.
Wolves Belong here in Arizona and deserve the protection afforded them by the Endangered Species Act.

For the wolves,



Monday, March 11, 2013

Predators Balance Nature


When large predators are removed from the environment negative consequences follow such as deer and elk populations exploding. This is then followed by over browsing of plants, which can cause streams to erode and populations of plants, birds, animals, fish, insects, and amphibians to dwindle with some vanishing forever. Take wolves from the environment and coyotes proliferate reducing populations of rabbits and hares. At the same time deer and elk herds grow beyond the ability of the forest to sustain them. Trees and shrubs are unable to reproduce adequately due to over browsing and some vanish from the landscape. Habitat that supports birds and insects is lost and their numbers plummet. By removing wolves from the environment a chain reaction is put into play that is the beginning of a major ecological degradation.
 Here in the west wolves, mountain lions, bears and eagles were hunted almost to extinction to make room for domestic cattle and sheep. Unable to comprehend the contribution of large predators to the ecology bounties placed on predators almost completely removed wolves from the lower 48 including our public lands. Today wolf reintroduction programs are seriously impacted by those who misunderstand the role that these predators play in the health of the environment.
 Recently protections for wolves have been removed by the Interior Department allowing them to be slaughtered by the hundreds in the Northern Rockies and I believe they will try to remove protections from almost all wolves across the country before Secretary Salazar leaves the agency once again leaving wolves to be leg trapped and shot back to the brink of extinction.
Mountain Lions are being killed in South Dakota, Wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota are being killed at an alarming rate (0ver 1000) since August 2012. Threats to these animals include hunting, habitat loss and poaching.

                                                             MEXICAN GRAY WOLF

Even though the Mexican Gray Wolf has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1976 twenty of the animals released along the Arizona/New Mexico Border have been killed. Currently there are only 58 Mexican Grays in the wild making them the most endangered mammal in the country.
 Around the world thousands of species are either extinct or endangered due almost exclusively to the activities of humans. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was approved by Congress with the force of law aimed at protecting plants and animals that are in danger of extinction. Today we still have great challenges including legislators on the right that try to weaken and even end protections for our most vulnerable species based on politics with little or no regard for science. Clearly this assault from politicians is driven by campaign cash and unfortunately ignorance. Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced  a bill that would remove protections from all wolves allowing them to be slaughtered throughout the entire country including in Arizona/New Mexico where reintroduction efforts would be devastated and the Mexican Gray Wolf would disappear from the landscape forever.

Wolves and Mountain Lions provide a natural and necessary function in nature. We made the mistake of removing them in the past and our ecology suffered enormously. Now with the science clearly showing how these animals help an ailing landscape forces are poised to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past. If this battle is lost then hundreds if not thousands of other efforts will fail along with it. We must prevail in our efforts to save these remarkable animals or suffer grave consequences.